Summary

Destinations: South America
  • Trip code: TPM
  • Activity: Walking & Trekking, Point-to-Point, New Walking Holidays
  • Min age: 16
  • Group size: 4 - 16
Moderate / Challenging

Trek an isolated route with unexplored ruins, discovery at every turn and great mountain views – an excellent introduction to high Andean trekking

The trek starts in a quiet, rural valley between Cuzco and the Sacred Valley and finishes in Ollantaytambo, only seven miles upstream from the start of the Inca Trail. It passes through seldom‐visited Andean villages, Inca and pre‐Inca ruins and heads onto a beautiful altiplano plateau surrounded by glaciated peaks. Most groups won’t encounter any other tourists for the entire trek and the combination of stunning mountain scenery and wildlife, fascinating relics and real isolation is truly rewarding.

Key information
  • 5 nights hotels in en suite rooms, 3 nights full-service camping with dining and toilet tents
  • 5 days point-to-point walking with full porterage
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader. Min. age 16 yrs
  • Altitude maximum 4600m, average 3600m
  • Travel by private bus and by train
Activities
  • 5 nights hotels in en suite rooms, 3 nights full-service camping with dining and toilet tents
  • 5 days point-to-point walking with full porterage
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader. Min. age 16 yrs
  • Altitude maximum 4600m, average 3600m
  • Travel by private bus and by train
Highlights
  • Seldom walked trails and few other tourists (if any!)
  • Majestically perched Machu Picchu
  • Walk a section of the Inca Trail via Wiñay Wayna
  • Discover Cuzco with its distinct Inca-Colonial fusion architecture
What's included
  • All breakfasts, 5 lunches and 3 dinners
  • 5 nights en suite hotels and 3 nights full-service camping
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Full porterage throughout trek
  • Exodus kitbag 
  • Inflatable sleeping mat while camping
    Food

    All breakfasts, 5 lunches and 3 dinners are included in the price of the tour. 

    Peruvian cuisine has developed a reputation for its flavours and originality and it’s well worth trying out a few of the local delicacies. Amongst these are ceviche (a spicy dish of seafood or fish marinated in lime juice), lomo saltado (a Peruvian take on a beef stir-fry) and various hearty soups such as the delicious quinoa soup. Other dishes include roasted cuy (guinea pig), alpaca steak, and to drink, the national beverage: Pisco Sour.

    Drinking water is included throughout the holiday as the tap water in Peru is not safe to drink; boiled and filtered drinking water is provided on the trek and elsewhere your leader will buy large water containers for you to refill your bottle from. 

    Hotel breakfasts are normally simple buffet-style affairs, usually including bread/toast and jam, cereal, sometimes eggs or a cooked dishes, sometimes fruit, tea/coffee and fruit juice. Regrettably, we cannot guarantee that wheat/gluten-free products will be available for breakfast in all locations – if you have an intolerance you may wish to bring your own breakfast food.

    Where lunch and dinner are not included in Cuzco/Aguas Calientes we’ll visit a variety of cafes and restaurants.

    During the Moonstone Trek hearty breakfasts are served and good quality cooked lunches and dinners are provided, and usually consist of soup or a starter, a main course with meat/fish and some form of carbohydrates, followed by a dessert. Some snacks between meals are also provided. Bed tea/coffee is brought to your tent each morning and juice or hot drinks are provided with all meals during the trek.

     

Highlights

  • Seldom walked trails and few other tourists (if any!)
  • Majestically perched Machu Picchu
  • Walk a section of the Inca Trail via Wiñay Wayna
  • Discover Cuzco with its distinct Inca-Colonial fusion architecture

Dates & Pricing

 
Start
Finish
Availability
Price
19 Oct 2019
27 Oct 2019
Available
R 21800
 
Start
Finish
Availability
Price
16 May 2020
24 May 2020
Available
R 22800
 
Start
Finish
Availability
Price
27 Jun 2020
05 Jul 2020
Available
R 22800
 
Start
Finish
Availability
Price
26 Jul 2020
03 Aug 2020
Available
R 22800
 
Start
Finish
Availability
Price
23 Aug 2020
31 Aug 2020
Available
R 22800
 
Start
Finish
Availability
Price
19 Sep 2020
27 Sep 2020
Available
R 22800
 
Start
Finish
Availability
Price
17 Oct 2020
25 Oct 2020
Available
R 22800

Reviews

Accommodation

Hotels & Camping

The hotels normally used are indicated within the itinerary, however, accommodation may differ from those stated depending on your departure date. All of our Cuzco hotels are small and locally-owned with en-suite bathrooms and breakfast facilities. All are located within walking distance of the central Plaza de Armas. Most hotels have a safety deposit box in the room but if not, there will be one at the reception.

Please note that central heating is very rare in Peru, even in good standard hotels. Most hotels provide plug-in heaters and spare blankets. Additionally whilst all of the hotels have a hot water supply, it can be temperamental when there is high demand.

A railway line runs straight through the centre of Aguas Calientes and whilst we try to allocate rooms away from it whenever possible, the trains might be heard from some rooms.

The Moonstone trek is on a full-service camping basis with full porterage, meaning that our camp staff will erect and dismantle the tents for you, cook, and do all of the camp chores for you. You need only carry your daypack. There is a separate dining tent for meal times, as well as a toilet tent for use both in camp and during lunch stops. On the Moonstone Trek we use wild campsites.

Should you wish to extend your stay, we can book extra nights accommodation in Cuzco for you. While we endeavour to book your pre/post tour accommodation in the same hotel that you will start/end the trip, it may not always be possible. If your extra accommodation is in a different hotel to where the group will start/end the trip it is your responsibility to make arrangements to get to/from that start/end hotel.

We recommend the early booking of single supplements and of pre/post-tour accommodation. Single accommodation (including tents) can be arranged, subject to availability. Please request this at the time of booking.

Essential Info

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 5 lunches and 3 dinners are included in the price of the tour. 

Peruvian cuisine has developed a reputation for its flavours and originality and it’s well worth trying out a few of the local delicacies. Amongst these are ceviche (a spicy dish of seafood or fish marinated in lime juice), lomo saltado (a Peruvian take on a beef stir-fry) and various hearty soups such as the delicious quinoa soup. Other dishes include roasted cuy (guinea pig), alpaca steak, and to drink, the national beverage: Pisco Sour.

Drinking water is included throughout the holiday as the tap water in Peru is not safe to drink; boiled and filtered drinking water is provided on the trek and elsewhere your leader will buy large water containers for you to refill your bottle from. 

Hotel breakfasts are normally simple buffet-style affairs, usually including bread/toast and jam, cereal, sometimes eggs or a cooked dishes, sometimes fruit, tea/coffee and fruit juice. Regrettably, we cannot guarantee that wheat/gluten-free products will be available for breakfast in all locations – if you have an intolerance you may wish to bring your own breakfast food.

Where lunch and dinner are not included in Cuzco/Aguas Calientes we'll visit a variety of cafes and restaurants.

During the Moonstone Trek hearty breakfasts are served and good quality cooked lunches and dinners are provided, and usually consist of soup or a starter, a main course with meat/fish and some form of carbohydrates, followed by a dessert. Some snacks between meals are also provided. Bed tea/coffee is brought to your tent each morning and juice or hot drinks are provided with all meals during the trek.

 

Is this trip for you?

This is a Moderate/Challenging grade trek (level 4) – please refer to our activity level guidelines [1]. There are 5 days walking with full porterage, at a maximum altitude of 4600m, average 3600m. A little higher and tougher than the Inca Trail ‐ this trek is remote and on some fairly rough paths, some sections of which present mild exposure. Anyone of reasonable fitness and with prior walking experience should find no real difficulties, except for a satisfying challenge in ascending the high‐pass (about 800m of ascent to about 4600m). No prior experience of trekking at altitude is required.

As this trip spends considerable time at altitude, we ask you to refer to the altitude warning below. All of our itineraries have built in acclimatisation days before starting the trek.

Walking hours stated within the itinerary are given as approximates only. Timings stated include lunch and photo stops and will vary depending on the pace of your group.

*New List of Regulations for visiting Machu** Picchu *(which apply from July 1st 2018).

The main points impacting your visit are the following:

1) The tickets are valid only for one entry which means that you cannot leave the site and re-enter. 2) Once you have done the chosen circuit with your guide, you cannot walk back to view anything already visited and once you finish the circuit, you will have to leave the site. You can no longer explore the site further after the guided tour. 3) The two visit times for visiting the site, either 6am-12pm or 12-16.30pm.

These new regulations will affect how long you are able to spend at Machu Picchu.  In the past, after the guided tour passengers could stay longer to explore the site, this is not possible anymore. The alternative that we are implementing on our visits to allow you further time, is to explore the upper part of Machu Picchu (Sun Gate and Inca Bridge) before starting the guided tour.  The guided tour will be about 2 hrs in duration, and unfortunately at the end of it, you will need to exit the site.

 Schedule of visit to Machu Picchu on this itinerary:

* Early bus to Machu Picchu and explore upper part with the tour leader * Between 9-10am start the guided tour * Between 11.30am-12.30pm passengers leave Machu Picchu

* *

[1] node/714

Full Day by Day Itinerary

Day 1 Land Only

Start Cuzco (3400m); free time to explore the Inca capital

Set amidst hills in the altiplano, the Imperial City of the Incas, Cuzco (3,400) was the geographic, cultural and political centre of a vast empire which, at its peak, stretched from present-day Quito in Ecuador to Santiago in Chile. After the Spanish conquistadores invaded the city they started building on top of the Incan structures, resulting in unique architecture, a fusion of the Incan and Spanish colonial styles. The group flight usually arrives around midday, giving time for a short orientation tour around the city or free time to wander the cobbled streets admiring the old houses, visiting its interesting museums, churches and pre-Columbian buildings, or to sit in a café and sample a coca-tea. It is recommended to take it easy upon arrival into Cuzco and to drink plenty of water to allow your body time to acclimatise to the altitude (3400m). There will be a welcome briefing in the hotel lobby this afternoon/evening. *Accommodation: Hotel Koyllur (or similar)*

Day 2

Free day; optional Sacred Valley excursion.

Today has been left free for exploring Cuzco, one of South America’s most beautiful cities. The Plaza de Armas is a fantastic spot for people-watching, and Qorikancha – the Sun Temple, located in the Santo Domingo Church and monastery, are worth a visit. The Mercado San Pedro is the place to try some local produce and there are many handicraft markets to shop for souvenirs such as alpaca jumpers and scarves. Outside the town are more Inca ruins, notably the fortress of Sacsayhuaman where the Inca armies made their last stand against the Conquistadores. Cuzco is also the gateway to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and should you wish to visit the sites, your leader can help organise an excursion, including Pisac Market (optional). If you fancy something more active then there are an array of other optional activities available from Cuzco including paddle-boarding on a lake, mountain biking, or a combination of via ferrata and zip-lining in the Sacred Valley. *Accommodation: Hotel Koyllur (or similar)*

Day 3

Start the Moonstone Trek; walk past ruins and hamlets to the village of Chillipawa

An early start as it’s a very busy first day! We take a private minibus to the trailhead, stopping first to explore the nearby ruins from which the trek takes its name. This is a large site with several distinct Inca remnants, clearly of religious importance. As with the rest of the trek, we are most likely to have the site completely to ourselves. The Moonstone itself is a large carving on an enormous boulder, and its significance is not yet understood. The trailhead is in a quiet, dusty valley and we soon climb high enough from the floor to enjoy some great views. At around lunchtime we stop to explore the imposing pre‐Inca fortress of Wata that straddles the trail. The ruin has not yet been accurately dated and pottery can often still be found lying on the ground. The path then traverses along a green side valley as we make our way above a few tiny villages before entering the village of Chillipawa, where we camp. *Walk Profile: approx. 10.5km / 6‐7hrs walking* *Full‐service Camping*

Day 4

Up the Accoccosa Pass and onto the high pampas

A long, steady climb with plenty of rest stops to aid acclimatisation takes us above the villages and into the high pampas ‐ rugged meadows of long grass. We normally stop for lunch shortly before the crest of the Accoccosa Pass (and the very rare Andean Flicker is sometimes seen (although often heard!). The last leg of the pass is on loose red scree, but the view from the top makes it all worthwhile: a broad, hidden valley surrounded by snowy peaks ‐ the Huayanay Range on the left, the Urubamba Range straight ahead and beautiful, triangular Mt Veronica (5800m) to the right. We have time to explore this plateau and experience walking in the high altiplano before returning to our camp for a well‐deserved hot dinner. The camp’s isolation, well away from any settlements, results in spectacular night skies when clear. *Walk Profile: approx. 8.8km / 4‐5hrs walking* *Full‐service Camping*

Day 5

Continue along a narrow canyon and Incan aqueduct before crossing over to the Inca quarry of Canchiqata

We start after breakfast by following the stream from down this hidden valley into a narrow canyon. Rare polylepis trees grow here and we pass through a small grove as we leave the canyon. Our path then turns North and traverses very high above a deep and steep valley separating us from the Huayanay Mountains. This is probably the most spectacular section of the trek and we roughly follow a (now defunct) Inca aqueduct spectacularly carved out of the cliffs to take water from the hidden valley of our campsite to the Sacred Valley several miles away. At the end of the traverse we have a short but steep climb up to our lunch spot, a flat, ridge‐top meadow facing straight across the Sacred Valley to the snowy Urubamba Range. After lunch we walk down to Huayrapunku. Meaning “Gate of the Wind”, this is a ridge‐top Inca shrine oriented to Mt Veronica, of which it has a simply incredible view. A short walk brings us to our final campsite in amongst the granite stones of the Canchiqata Quarry. It was here that huge blocks were cut from the rose‐coloured granite before being dragged down the mountainside and across the river to the Sun Temple at Ollantaytambo. *Walk Profile: approx. 11.8km / 5‐6hrs walking * *Full‐service Camping *

Day 6

Descend to Ollantaytambo where the trek ends

Photographers are advised to wake up before dawn this morning, to watch the sun rise over the Sacred Valley from our campsite high above it. The sun’s first rays catching the glaciers of Mt Veronica certainly makes the effort more than worthwhile. This is our last day on the trek and we descend from the pampas down into the lush valley floor along the enormous stone ramps on which the Incas dragged the stones. We cross the river and explore the huge Sun Temple complex to see where the stones ended and what use they were put to.  *Walk Profile: approx. 8km / 2‐3hrs walking * *Accommodation: Tunupa Lodge (or similar)*

Day 7

Day walk along Inca Trail via Winay Wayna ruins

Today we have a day walk along a section of the Inca Trail, starting early with a train from Ollantaytambo.  After showing our passports at the check point, we will pass by the archaeological site of Chachabamba and start our trek. The trail has impressive views of the valley and the Urubamba river, with orchids and begonias along the way and the sight of magnificent mountains all around. The trail passes the ruins of Wiñay Wayna where we will stop to explore and have our packed lunch. After visiting the attractive ruins of Wiñay Wayna, we have an undulating walk through cloud forest high above the river to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. From here we get our first full sight of Machu Picchu itself, with Huayna Picchu rising behind. *Walk Profile: approx. 11km / 6-7hrs walking* *Accommodation: Intipunku El Tambo (or similar)*

Day 8

Guided tour of Machu Picchu; free time to explore further; return to Cuzco by train and road

In order to beat the day-trippers arriving from Cuzco and reach the ruins as early as possible, a very early start is required to queue for Machu Picchu; only government-registered buses can make the 30-minute drive up the winding road to the site entrance, and during high season (May-October) queues can be hours long.  Machu Picchu is one of the architectural and engineering marvels of the ancient world and what makes it all the more dramatic is its mountain backdrop of staggering immensity. The Spaniards never found it; the Incas left no records of it, and so Machu Picchu remained a great enigma, a city lost for centuries in the jungle until it was rediscovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.  New regulations for visiting Machu Picchu are now fully enforced; of the three possible visiting slots, we will purchase the morning slot from 06:00 until 12:00 (unless unavailable), you will be limited to a maximum of four hours within the site and must be accompanied by a guide. There will also be three set routes to follow around Machu Picchu; we select the most comprehensive route.  We catch an afternoon train back to Ollantaytambo (1hr 30 mins) and continue by private bus to Cuzco (2hrs 30 mins). *Accommodation: Hotel Koyllur (or similar)** *

Day 9

End Cuzco

For land only travellers, the trip ends in Cuzco after breakfast today. Those who are travelling on the group flights will be taken to Cuzco airport to catch the overnight flight back to London.

Map